Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE full review

While Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is already available Stateside, only now is it reaching British shores. Naturally, you can't have a cellular smartwatch without a carrier to use such newfound connectivity and as a result, Vodafone UK is the first network to support the wearable's eSIM in the country.

Announced almost precisely one year on from the original TicWatch Pro, this second-generation smartwatch looks to offer a markedly similar proposition, with regards to both features and design. Aside from mobile connectivity, Mobvoi has granted this 2019 model a little extra memory and a reworked finish, but that appears to be the extent of the update.

If you're not familiar with the original TicWatch Pro, it's served as the company's most advanced wearable to date, offering one of its most feature-rich designs and the only watch on the market with a secondary FSTN display (more on that in a bit).

Price & Availability

Mobvoi announced the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE way back in July, 2019 - with American availability almost immediately afterwards. Why it's taken the rest of the year to bring to watch to the UK is unclear but it's fair to assume that the company wanted a big-name carrier partner to support and push its new TicWatch, in order to increase its chances of sales success at launch.

In the US, the company partnered with "Big Red" (Verizon) and as already mentioned, Vodafone UK has shored up (to use its full name) the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE's debut in the United Kingdom. Stateside, original pricing pegged this new model at $279 and although it has fluctuated on sites like Amazon.com (it's official RRP is cited at $299), pricing has remained relatively consistent.

In the UK, the new TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE costs £249.99 and thanks to Vodafone's OneNumber service, you won't have to fork out an additional data plan or add-on to support the added benefits of the watch's eSIM. Instead, once registered, you'll be able to use the watch on Vodafone's network freely.

This means you'll be able to make and take calls, as well as send and receive messages, straight from your wrist; even when your phone isn't with you. 

Design & Build

Mobvoi's focus in the smartwatch space has always centred around affordability - offering some of the most competitively-priced, feature-rich Wear OS wearables out there.

As you might guess from the name, the original TicWatch Pro and this new generation both share in some premium touches, but it's clear that they're both technology-led designs.

Unlike last year's Pro, this cellular model comes in a single finish - a reflective titanium grey bezel surrounds the watch's fully-circular screen, with a touch of knurling to add texture and help the watch set itself apart from its predecessor. You'll find colour-matched metal buttons on the right side of the sculpted black plastic casing and a black all-silicone 22mm strap, where there once was a hybrid leather/silicone offering.

Straps are easily replaced, thanks to quick-release pins and standardised sizing, however, the tongue-and-groove fit of the in-box option will be harder to match; assuming you're a fan of continuous form that Mobvoi presents you with out-the-gate.

While the casing is mainly made of thick plastic, it feels well-made and the finish should stand up well against knocks and scrapes - it just doesn't look as nice as Mobvoi probably, thinks it does - especially when practically every other rival smartwatch of this generation has placed a greater focus on design and aesthetics than ever before.

Just because this is a watch brimming with electronics, doesn't mean it has to look like one. The Pro 4G/LTE is stereotypically styled as a smartwatch, for better or worse.

Aesthetics aside, you get Gorilla Glass 3 on the front, plus both MIL-STD-810 and IP68 dust and water resistance; meaning the average drop, drip or scrape shouldn't cause the 2019 TicWatch Pro to flinch. Swim-tracking is a notable addition since last year's Pro, meaning the watch's water resistance is more substantial than its spec sheet lets on, too.

Audio & Display

The big hook with the original TicWatch Pro was the introduction of a secondary screen - an FSTN LCD panel that, due to its transparency, cleverly sat atop the watch's full-colour AMOLED display. While no longer the star feature, the implementation is much the same on this second-generation TicWatch Pro.

When interacting with the touchscreen, you're doing so using the watch's primary 1.39in 400x400 AMOLED display. It's a great-looking panel and pleasingly sharp, meaning you won't have to bring the watch unusually close to your face in order to decipher small on-screen text.

The FSTN screen acts like a classic Casio watch, with a monochromatic digital readout for the time and date, plus the added bonus of your step count and heart rate (if enabled). It solves a challenge that every other smartwatch faces, by offering an always-on viewing experience that drains a fraction of the power. Mobvoi has even included an Essential Mode, which disables the 'smart' aspects of the watch entirely and locks the experience down to only the FSTN display, granting hugely improved longevity.

While the AMOLED display is ideal for low light viewing, LCD technology like that of the FSTN display is more readily visible the brighter the environment it's viewed in; meaning that in the case of the TicWatch Pro more than most, you'll never have an issue with display legibility.

The watch also possesses both microphones and a loudspeaker. While these features can be found in plenty of non-cellular watches, for use with features like the Google Assistant, their presence on a wearable like the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is doubly important, as they also facilitate calls on the go.

If you're not comfortable with the idea of talking at your watch, Dick Tracey or Knight Rider-style, you do have the option of connecting Bluetooth headphones directly to the TicWatch too.

Software & Features

Google's Wear OS experience underpins the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE, like all of the company's most recent wearables. The user interface has been markedly improved off late, taking the form of a simple directional swipe interface and customisable 'tiles' for quick access to widgets covering calendar appointments, timers, fitness and more.

The ongoing issue with Google's wearable platform is that it doesn't see a lot of love outside of first-party app experiences, with inclusions like Spotify manifesting as nothing more than robust remote media controls. Offline or on-device streaming, which the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Watch line already offers, is still absent here.

Aside from a smattering of varied watch faces, Mobvoi's own additions are exclusively fitness-based, with a dedicated TicPulse app to check your heart rate manually, along with the TicHealth app to check your activity and the TicExercise app, which grants quick access to running, walking, cycling and swimming activity tracking, as well as a 'freestyle' option for gym circuits or other activities.

If choices there feel a little limited, Wear OS also comes complete with Google's own Google Fit suite, which boasts a far larger range of trackable activities, plus a breathing app, for wellness purposes.

Thanks to onboard GPS, you have the option to keep tabs on your routes, without your phone, while integrated NFC allows for Google Pay-powered contactless payments, directly on-wrist.

Performance & Battery

Despite the added power draw of a 3G/4G radio setup (4G-only in the US model), Mobvoi chose not to increase the battery capacity from the previous Pro's 415mAh cell size.

One the one hand, it means this watch hasn't gotten any thicker than last year's, however, there are definitely concerns around longevity, especially considering there are already so many other integrated features that have the potential to chug power if not used sparingly. And that's before you even consider using its new cellular connectivity.

Of course, the FSTN display should offer greater longevity compared to conventional always-on display solutions and the Essential mode is a standout feature that scores the TicWatch Pro line bonus points for offering value, long after the battery lacks the juice to power the full 'smart' experience.

Speaking of the user experience, out the gate the TicWatch Pro offers markedly smoother performance than its predecessor - making for a Wear OS experience as it should be. It still has a tendency to stutter from time to time but for the most part, doubling the available memory to 1GB of RAM has fixed what undermined an otherwise enjoyable UX previously.

Spec junkies might scoff at the persistence of the older Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor on board, but considering its successor, the 3100, only really benefits from additional low-power components to solve the same problem as the Pro's FSTN display, just by a different means, its absence isn't really felt here.

Early Verdict

The TicWatch Pro offers a novel but effective solution to a serious problem in the world of smartwatches and the same is true with this new 4G LTE cellular model, which shares in that standout FSTN display.

The option of phone-free connectivity will appeal to some, especially as its implementation doesn't cost you any extra per month, but it's the improved performance and user experience that elevates the experience offered by last year's Pro from a serviceable one to an enjoyable one.

Pricing also renders the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE a competitively-priced smartwatch considering its feature set, much like the rest of the company's wearable family. If you're looking for mobile connectivity on your wrist, this might be the most cost-effective option.

If you'd rather a more considered design, the likes of the Skagen Falster 2, Diesel Axial smartwatch or the fresh-faced Fossil Gen 5 might be a better fit, Samsung's Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active offerings grant you a Tizen-based user experience in place of Wear OS, if you're looking for something a little different.

Why not check out our full Best Smartwatch 2019 roundup to see which wearables are worth wrapping around your wrist.

Specs

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE: Specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 3G WCDMA + 4G LTE FDD (US = 4G-only)
  • 1.39in AMOLED display (circular, 400x400)
  • 22mm silicone straps (interchangeable)
  • IP68 dust & water resistance
  • Optical heart-rate monitor
  • GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
  • FSTN display (top layer)
  • Ambient light sensor
  • NFC w/ Google Pay
  • 45.1x52.8x12.6mm
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • 415mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4GB storage
  • 1GB RAM